Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Belgium 1 - USA 0

September 06, 2011

The United States historic difficulties winning in Europe continued on Tuesday, with a loss at Brussels's King Baudouin Stadium. Nicolas Lombaerts scored the game's only goal in the 55th minute. Both teams had would-be goals called off, with the United States thinking they had an 86th minute equalizer only for the referee to decide otherwise.

Five Things From Belgium

US National Team, US soccer, Belgium, USA, carlos bocanegra

By J Hutcherson - WASHINGTON, DC (Sep 3, 2011) US Soccer Players -- The United States lost 1-0 to Belgium in Brussels on Tuesday. Here are five things, a few game specific and a few general, to consider as the National Team moves onto the October friendly window.
The Goalkeeper

Nothing buys a team time to get other aspects of their game together like a goalkeeper stopping shots. That was Tim Howard on Tuesday, as if anyone really needed that reminder. What Howard did especially late in the first-half wasn't just keep Belgium out. He kept them honest, forcing them to reconsider their shot selections and what they were doing with their own offense.

That disrupted the flow of a team that seemed to be in control. Instead of going into the half with a goal, they went in with questions. Whether it's Europe or CONCACAF, club or country, that's what having a player of Howard's caliber means. When he's own his game, he wins time. Other than goals, that's the most valuable commodity available over 90 minutes. It's easy enough to stress the save that didn't happen without considering the ones that did. That's not a blanket excuse, but in this game on this night it applies to what Howard did for his team.

We've seen three versions of the National Team under Klinsmann, and we've seen who he subs in and why. What this tells us is simple. When goals aren't getting scored in the first-half, where does Klinsmann look? First place is the point of attack. That's meant bringing on Juan Agudelo, a player that is capable of making the kind of solo runs that can shake up the opposing defense. What Agudelo has been doing in the Klinsmann setup is more than the super sub role where a coach brings on an attacking player late in the hope that one or more goals fall. Agudelo enters the game earlier than a super sub - in the 63rd against Costa Rica and at halftime against Belgium. He's stepping into a role that already exists in the Klinsmann system, a way to reset the attack in real time. It's a lot to put on a young player who isn't a given in the lineup at club level, and it's an interesting move from the National Team coach.
System Soccer

One of the issues with a new coach openly talking about a new system is that it becomes tough to judge early in any direction. Sweep through all challengers, and the expectations might get raised past any realistic assessment. Fail to win, and patience becomes an issue. No coach wants to be locked into a time line. There's a long list of coaches still arguing that they didn't have enough time to get their system in place before being shown the door at clubs and with National Teams all over the world. Though there's no question that appeals to a system that has yet to show any benefits can be used as a crutch, it's much tougher to figure out a set of realistic expectations. 'What should happen when?' before the obvious milestones of qualifying and competitions. It's as simple as that, and it's not limited to the coach or those running US Soccer.

Soccer America's Paul Gardner had an interesting point in a recent article following the loss against Costa Rica. The US has an established reputation for fitness, yet that's become a talking point for Klinsmann. The US could be fitter is the simple takeaway, especially for players in Major League Soccer. Yet there's a push/pull between a National Team coach stressing fitness with limited time with a squad and the MLS teams doing what they do day in and day out. Again, like system soccer it becomes tough to fairly judge. There's certainly such a thing as focusing too much on fitness with any professional club. It's a thin line between fit and exhausted, or over training and becoming more susceptible to injury. That's no knock against what Klinsmann is saying or doing, by the way. It's just the reality of only having the National Team squad for limited periods of time. With that in mind, the bulk of the work happens at club level, and there's a wide disparity in club training environments.

There's an argument that we're hearing too much too soon from Klinsmann. There are two quick points to make here. 1) It's a nice contrast to the previous setup for those working in the media. 2) Distill his comments and he's not really saying that much. Klinsmann has shown he's more than capable of staying with a set of talking point, slightly altering them for a given situation but not offering much in the way of depth. The problem is the more those points get repeated, along with Klinsmann's almost contagious enthusiasm for the job and his team, the more it opens up Klinsmann and his team to some basic complaints. First and foremost, there's the lack of goals and the wins that normally go with them. Klinsmann deserves credit for his goodwill campaign, but it has its limits. After Tuesday, there's a case he's already reached them. Keeping quiet has its benefits, even for a personality as affable and as genuinely engaged as Klinsmann.


Match: USA vs. Belgium
Date: Sept. 6, 2011
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: King Baudouin Stadium; Brussels, Belgium
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. ET
Attendance: TBD
Weather: 61 degrees; light rain

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
Belgium 0 1 1
USA 0 0 0
BEL – Nicolas Lombaerts (Marouane Fellaini) 55th minute

USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Steve Cherundolo, 4-Clarence Goodson, 5-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 3-Timmy Chandler; 6-Maurice Edu, 10- Jose Torres (15-Jeff Larentowicz, 76), 8-Clint Dempsey; 7-Robbie Rogers (14-Kyle Beckerman, 46), 9-Jozy Altidore (18-Juan Agudelo, 46), 11-Brek Shea
Subs not used: 12-Bill Hamid, 13- Michael Orozco Fiscal, 16-Sacha Kljestan, 17- Jonathan Spector
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

BEL: 1-Simon Mignolet; 2-Laurent Ciman, 3-Toby Alderweireld, 4-Vincent Kompany (capt.), 5-Nicolas Lombaerts; 6-Timmy Simons; 7-Eden Hazard (16-Marvin Ogunjimi, 63), 10-Axel Witsel, 8-Marouane Fellaini (15-David Hubert, 63), 11-Dries Mertens; 9-Igor de Camargo (14-Romelu Lukaku, 63)
Subs not used: 12-Jean-Francois Gillet, 13-Timothy Derijck, 17-Jelle Vossen 18-Moussa Dembele, 19-Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, 20-Jelle van Damme, 21-Thibaut Coutois
Head coach: George Leekens

Stats Summary: USA / BEL
Shots: 6 / 13
Shots on Goal: 2 / 5
Saves: 4 / 2
Corner Kicks: 3 / 5
Fouls: 11 / 13
Offside: 1 / 2

Misconduct Summary:

Referee: William Collum (SCO)
Assistant Referee 1: Graham Chambers (SCO)
Assistant Referee 2: Stuart Stevenson (SCO)
Fourth Official: Philippe Vandecauter (BEL)


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